Typically a narrative is at its strongest when it’s stripped right down to the necessities: an actor on a naked stage, say, accompanied by some bluesy riffs on an acoustic guitar. If the story exposes some occasion or trauma associated to the vicissitudes of a historical past of oppression, the impact might be transformative, an intimate engagement that interprets one thing we’ve understood solely intellectually into the crucible of feeling.
Such is the case with “Discovering North,” a one-man play by David Gonzalez that recounts an incident from the lifetime of John P. Parker, a former slave who owned a foundry in Ohio and helped tons of of slaves on their flight to freedom within the Underground Railroad. I don’t know if the play’s account of Parker’s rescue of a slave household from a white man who labored for him truly occurred, however once I noticed the efficiency at Kingston’s Previous Dutch Church, again within the fall of 2022, Parker the person and the predicament he confronted felt completely genuine. The plainspoken language of the monologue, the naturalness with which actor Daniel Carlton inhabited the character of this gutsy Nineteenth-century abolitionist, and the intricate, rootsy guitar accompaniment, which was additionally composed and performed by Gonzalez, made the story come alive.
By interspersing up to date first-person narratives into Parker’s monologue, the play was additionally charged with historic relevance. With assistance from a easy prop, reminiscent of a shawl, baseball cap, or cane, Carlton effortlessly reworked himself into a variety of characters, together with a younger Guatemalan lady recounting her treacherous journey north throughout the Rio Grande; a Pakistani teenager who was harassed by his classmates within the wake of 9/11; and a grief stricken outdated man recounting how as a baby he watched the lynching of his sharecropper father. “Discovering North,” which was commissioned by Cincinnati Playhouse within the Park to rejoice the opening of that metropolis’s Underground Railroad Freedom Heart, is at present touring theaters throughout the nation.
In addition to being a playwright, composer, and musician, Gonzalez, who resides in Rosendale, can also be a storyteller, poet, and producer. His performs, musical productions, and spoken phrase items have been carried out nationwide. In some circumstances, he has facilitated nonartists, typically members of marginalized communities, find their very own voice, which generally ends in a manufacturing. For instance, “Exhausting Dinero,” which was carried out on the Rosendale Theatre in October 2022, consists of a collection of bilingual monologues and dialogues based mostly on immigrant tales of Ulster County residents. Whereas a number of the tales are hopeful, others, such because the younger man who couldn’t escape his burden of debt and hung himself, are tragic.
One other of Gonzalez’s domestically impressed productions is the play “Falcon Ridge,” which traces the evolving relationship between an area African American couple and their new neighbor, a Jewish couple from New York Metropolis, within the Fifties; it was impressed by tales from the multiracial, remoted mountain neighborhood of Eagle’s Nest (and was carried out at Previous Dutch Church final March).
“Artwork might be impactful,” Gonzalez says. Certainly, he’s been acknowledged for creating performances that matter: he was a cultural ambassador for the US State Division and obtained a Drama Desk Nomination for Distinctive Theatrical Expertise and a Lifetime Achievement Award for Sustained Excellence from the Worldwide Performing Arts for Youth, amongst different honors.
His roots because the son of a Nuyorican mom and Cuban father rising up within the Bronx have knowledgeable a lot of his work. For his critically acclaimed manufacturing “!Sofrito!,” which was first carried out within the Nineteen Nineties, he advised conventional tales from Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Bronx accompanied by salsa carried out by the Latin Legends Band. Gonzalez started his profession as a music therapist, working with special-needs children. Bringing a component of playfulness into his observe, he started telling tales and performing free of charge at venues in his East Village neighborhood.
That developed into paying gigs first at faculties within the New York metro space, then across the nation. Within the Nineteen Nineties, he co-hosted “New York Children,” a stay radio present that aired on Sunday afternoons on public radio station WNYC. “I used to be the goof, the improvisor, the enjoyable one,” he remembers.
It was Gonzalez’s poem “Entanglement” that planted the seed for one in every of his newest tasks: after assembly Luke Keller, a professor of physics and astronomy at Ithaca School, at a convention, on a hunch he confirmed the scientist the poem, which alludes to the phenomenon of quantum entanglement. The 2 determined to collaborate on a manufacturing that will inform the story of the cosmos from each a scientific and a poetic perspective. The result’s “The Results of Gravity: A Cosmic Journey, Cosmology & Artwork,” which shall be carried out on the Bardavon on February 16. (The free performances are scheduled at 10 am and seven pm.)
It’s a contemporary method to understanding the cosmos and Earth’s place in it, combining scientific explanations, poetry, and music with beautiful photographs of area projected on an enormous display, which include images taken from the Hubble and James Webb telescopes in addition to computer-generated simulations. The forwards and backwards between Keller and Gonzalez in regards to the “small flash” that alternatively birthed the cosmos and a child daughter, about darkish matter and the way a mom with dementia misplaced her sense of time, is accompanied by the electrical guitar taking part in of Kingston-based sound artist Alvaro Domene, which is by turns funky, edgy, and portentous and delicately lyrical. Keller remarks on the boundaries of our understanding in addition to our wonderful powers of commentary: “We’ve got a present in that we will look again in time,” he says. And ahead: in a single compelling section, a simulation depicts the merging of the Milky Manner and Andromeda galaxies two billion years from now.
The piece culminates in a poem and pictures celebrating the wealthy range of nature on Earth, adopted by images of environmental destruction and a rap-like rant by Gonzalez lamenting the forces of greed and corruption which can be threatening the planet. The viewers is left with a query: “Can we combine or disintegrate?”